Summer Music in City Churches: Ten days of concerts themed around love, romance and Shakespeare

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Hosted in the historic church of St Giles-without-Cripplegate within London's Square Mile, highlights of the programme entitled ‘Love’s Labours’ include performances by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of London Choir, and soloists Rachel Nicholls, Roderick Williams, Iain Farrington, Nigel Hess, Fenella Humphreys and David Juritz. Tickets are on sale from the website and on the door.

Co-Artistic DirectorIan Maclay said: “All our concerts at St Giles Cripplegate over the last six years have demonstrated what a wonderful building it is for making music, and also for audiences to appreciate world-class performances on a very intimate scale.

"Especially since 2020, people have been visibly moved by experiencing live music in this very special space. The church is steeped in history, and we are intrigued by its close connections to Shakespeare. Of all his abiding themes, which better to choose for this year’s festival than love, inextricably entwined as it is with music.” Conductor Pierre Vallet opens the Festival with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in classical romantic favourites, including Mendelssohn’s early-Romantic ‘Italian’ Symphony, and Chopin’s second Piano Concerto performed by soloist Elizabeth Sombart. Fittingly these are prefaced by the heart-lifting overture from incidental music to Shakespeare’s ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, by Gerald Finzi. Bringing proceedings to an exuberant end will be a concert for all the family, when pianist and composer Iain Farrington joins the City of London Choir in a performance of his new jazz-infused cantata 'Then Sing We All' alongside Joseph Horovitz's ‘Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo’, featuring superstar soloists, Rachel Nicholls, soprano and baritone Roderick Williams.

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‘Then Sing We All’ is written for choir and instrumental ensemble; piano, double bass and drum kit. As composer Iain Farrington recalls: “I wanted to write a celebratory work using jazz styles following the traumatic period of the pandemic in 2020-1 and to express something of the joy that we experience when singing together." Alongside more reflective numbers, the general character of the work is jubilant, with a gospel or swing influence, and the choir invited to contribute their own percussion effects. On the choir’s behalf, Jenny Robinson said: “St Giles Cripplegate was home to the City of London Choir between periods of lockdown and where it gave one of the first post-pandemic live concerts - a time when our love of singing was felt more acutely than ever before. The choir has chosen Farrington’s piece as particularly apt for its first outing under the baton of new Music Director, Daniel Hyde.” ‘Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo’ was written and composed in 1970, the first collaboration of Michael Flanders and Joseph Horovitz. The work is a lighthearted oratorio originally written for children using popular musical styles to tell the well-known story which ultimately celebrates love of the earth and all who inhabit it. The version being performed is for baritone soloist, large chorus and jazz trio, and a recording by the same forces has recently been released on Orchid Classics. There is more than a little light jazz and blues inflection to this year’s Festival programme and The Art Deco Trio oblige with a selection of romantic songs from the Great American Songbook, arranged and performed by Iain Farrington, with Peter Sparks, clarinet and Kyle Horch, saxophone. The City of London Choir also perform Michael Tippett’s emotive Five Spirituals, from the strongly pacifist oratorio ‘A Child of our Time’, in which the spirituals represent the voice of all oppressed people, everywhere. The Festival welcomes for the first time violinistDavid Juritz with the Curve Ensemble for a beguiling programme of music inspired by love, passion and tango, featuring both Golden Age Tango and the Nuevo Tango of Astor Piazzolla, incidental music from Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone, romantic music by Gabriel Fauré and more.

City of London Choir at Summer Music in City Churches Festival.City of London Choir at Summer Music in City Churches Festival.
City of London Choir at Summer Music in City Churches Festival.

There are two evenings of words and music: ‘Food of Love’ - a glittering occasion of song, verse and anecdote, devised and performed by Nigel Hess, in which Shakespeare is brought vividly to life by actors Nancy CarrollandRichard Teversonand vocalistsMichael DoreandEleanor Grant; and a celebration of Fauré, in this the centenary year of his death, penned and narrated by Jessica Duchen with violinist FenellaHumphreys and pianist Viv McLean, who perform some of the greatest French virtuoso violin works of the fin-de-siècle era including music by Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Chausson and Ravel.Viv McLean also performs a kaleidoscopic programme of romantic music for solo piano, built around George Gershwin’s great love letter to New York, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ 100 years after its first performance. Pianist Mark Bebbington will join string principals from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to play romantic piano quintets by Vaughan Williams and Elgar. “From the early romantic fervour of Vaughan Williams to the autumnal magic of late Elgar, these two masterful Piano Quintets make perfect concert companions.”, says Bebbington. Lunchtime concerts feature Brother Tree Sound string quartet and Tier3 Trio, with music from Mendelssohn, Dvořák and Liszt, Arensky and Tchaikovsky. Baritone, David Greco, and pianist, Gavin Roberts perform what is perhaps the most celebrated of romantic song cycles; Schubert’s ‘Die Schöne Müllerin’.

For those wanting to explore further, there are Shakespeare-themed walking tours of the City running throughout the Festival.

Summer Music in City Churches

June 6 to 15

St Giles-without-Cripplegate, Fore Street, Barbican EC2Y 8DA

Programme and tickets available via the website or on the door: